09/17/2013, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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As scandal hits corrupt intelligence service, the spectre of dictatorship looms over S Korea again

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
The Catholic Church, along with Protestants and Wŏn Buddhists, continues its public protest against the secret services accused of manipulation in the last presidential election and keeping the country under constant surveillance. Catholic source tells AsiaNews, "We must listen carefully to the words Pope Francis spoke yesterday." Catholics must "not lose interest in public affairs", and should "react to such intolerable acts" with every means at their disposal.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - South Koreans "are living in a situation that seems a throwback to 30 years ago. There is no more personal privacy; there is no legal certainty; there is no trust in politics. We must listen carefully to the words Pope Francis spoke yesterday when he said that Catholics should not lose interest in public affairs. This is why we have to react to such intolerable acts of interference," a Catholic source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews.

In recent weeks, the Church of South Korea has launched a protest manifesto against interference by the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea's chief intelligence agency, which has been accused of manipulating the last presidential election, won by a whisker by rightwing candidate Park Geun-hye against Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in, a Catholic.

"All 15 dioceses in the country have endorsed the Manifesto, which was signed by most priests and religious. We are waiting for a statement from the episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace," the source said.

Civil society groups have also entered the fray in the past seven weeks against NIS interference with vigils and protests in front of the spy agency's headquarters as well as across from the central offices of the Saenuri Party. Catholics, Protestants and Wŏn Buddhists, the largest faith community in the country, have joined the protest.

All of them are calling for the resignation of top NIS officials, an apology for the electoral fraud and the dismantling of the surveillance system that "has brought the country back to the times of the military dictatorship."

Last night, a meeting between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Democratic Party chief Kim Han-gil, organised to find a common solution to the political deadlock, ended without a solution.

The NIS "trained specialists to 'bomb' voters with email and text messages to influence their vote in the presidential election," the source told AsiaNews.

"They accused Moon of being pro-North Korea, citing 'internal' investigations. They terrorised elderly voters, eliminated minor candidates by threatening inquiries and tax investigations. They engaged in espionage and electoral fraud in favour of Saenuri and against the Democratic Party. They are back to the methods of the dictatorship. Everyone in the country is convinced of that. "

For her part, President Park has denied any involvement in the case and called on the opposition to stop the protests and return to Parliament for discussion.

Such a proposal "is phoney since the NIS is still acting against anyone who is against the official line. The latest example is that of General Prosecutor Chae Dong-wook, a good man who began to investigate these allegations to see how truthful they are. After he received death threats, he was caught up in a sex scandal. The NIS claims Chae fathered a child with a prostitute. He denied it, she denied it, but the Ministry of Justice has opened an investigation. "

Last Friday, he offered to step down, saying that he hoped he would be last person go through such a treatment.

In view of all this, "the Church will not stand idly by," the source said. "We intend to go down every road to reach the truth and prevent people from ending up in a ' glass house,' under the eyes of the secret services."

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